What to Do When You Want a Divorce but Your Spouse Doesn’t

San Marcos, CA – You’ve made up your mind: You’re ready to divorce your spouse. You’ve thought about it, maybe you’ve talked to friends or family at length, and you’re certain it’s over. The only problem is, your spouse doesn’t feel the same way.


“Contrary to how divorce is often portrayed in TV shows and movies, it’s not always mutual,” says Solana Beach divorce attorney John Griffith. “Sometimes one partner will be ready to call it quits, while the other still wants to find a way to stay together. It’s a challenging process, but it happens.”

How to Start the Divorce Proceedings, Even If Your Spouse Doesn’t Want To

Generally, the California divorce process starts the same in all California courts. The first two steps are:

  1. The person seeking the divorce files a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Several other forms will likely be required as well, and these documents vary from county to county.
  2. The Petition must be served on the other party, and usually must be done in person.

Divorces (called Dissolutions of Marriage in California) take at least six months to become finalized. This time is counted from the date when the Petition for Dissolution was served or when the responding party filed their first paper, whichever one occurred first.

After this point, several more documents will need to be submitted to the court. The divorce is only finalized when a judge signs a Judgment of Dissolution. This last form will need to be prepared by one of the parties, submitted for signature with appropriate attachments and supporting documents.

“Since a non-mutual divorce can be tricky, it’s best to seek experienced counsel on the matter,” advises Griffith. “If papers aren’t filed and processed properly, it can drastically delay the divorce proceedings and increase the cost in the meantime.”

What If My Spouse Doesn’t Respond to the Summons or Petition?

California doesn’t require both spouses to agree on the divorce; one initiating it is sufficient. A spouse’s non-response won’t stop the divorce process and can, in fact, lead to a default judgment. That means the court would step in to help the divorce proceed along without the non-participating spouse.

In fact, such lack of involvement could reflect negatively in the court’s view. This could affect decisions pertaining to child custody, asset division, and so forth. In the case where you and your spouse can’t agree on issues like finances and what to do with minor children, the court will make the final decisions.

Either party can ask the judge to order spousal/partner support (also known as alimony); child support, visitation and custody; division of property; and restraining orders in the case of domestic violence.

Basically, it’s to each party’s advantage to participate in the proceedings, but you don’t need to be too concerned if your spouse refuses to respond. If she or he doesn’t reply to the Petition, this will likely result in default, as mentioned above. In this case, the spouse is ultimately waiving his or her right to have input during the divorce settlement.

A Speedier Process for Shorter Marriages

If you and your spouse have been married less than five years, don’t owe or own much, and have no children, you may be able to go through a faster process. This is especially the case if you can both generally agree on how to divide any assets or debts. This type of shortened procedure is called a Summary Dissolution and may be an alternative for you if your case matches the criteria above.

Seek Professional Counsel

“As you can see, there are some nuances to getting divorced when your spouse doesn’t want to,” concludes Griffith. “Since this is a complicated situation, I can’t stress enough how much professional counsel matters. While there is a wealth of information available online these days, there is no substitute for experience.”

To talk about your divorce case and ensure it’s handled correctly, schedule a free consultation with the knowledgeable team at Griffith, Young, and Lass today.  These exceptional family law attorneys can help you in a timely and professional manner.

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